Christians: The Despised of the World


“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!”
—Luke 6:22

A boot to the neckEvery day, news stories proliferate of Christian believers being killed, raped, tortured, and persecuted by the people of the world. While there are isolated incidents of the same occurring to people of other beliefs, Christians bear by far the brunt of this hate.

Christians in the United States are disliked primarily because we have strong opinions about cultural issues. But in most other countries, Christians are hated for Jesus’ sake, because they are light amid darkness. People love darkness and hate the light, because it exposes their wickedness. The light doesn’t have to do anything but be the light. By its very nature, it reveals darkness for what it is.

If anyone needs proof of the veracity of the Christian faith, the blood of the martyrs speaks volumes. One can’t look at the number of people who have died with the name of Jesus on their lips and blithely dismiss that faith as fanaticism or wishful thinking. Honest people can’t look at those numbers and wave them off. They have to ask the question: Why are Christians worldwide so despised for their faith?

Christians built the world’s hospitals, schools, and orphanages. Go to the worst places in the world and Christians are toiling there anonymously to make those places something othen than hellholes.

Christians gave the world much of its stunning art and architecture, music and literature. If it’s inspiring and noble, chances are, whatever it might be, it has the touch of the Christian message in it.

In most places around the globe, Christians go quietly about their business, ambassadors of Jesus in a world otherwise filled with sickness and strife.

Yet somehow, the reaction of the people of the world to the above is to hate Christians, often to the point of wishing them dead. And sometimes, the wishing turns real.

If you are not a Christian, ask yourself how it can be that one group of people can inspire such opposition. Don’t shrink away, but ask why. Ask yourself what it is about a couple in Pakistan that is so wrong that a mob would drag them out of their home and set them on fire. Or that Christians would be beheaded for no reason other than believing that Jesus is Lord.

God sent Himself through Jesus to die for our failures, hidden depravity, and rebellion against all that is good and right so that we would not have to die because of them. Instead, He offers us grace and a place in His Kingdom that never ends. We can’t earn that place. He gives it as a free gift when we place our faith in Jesus. Because of this, we can love God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and love our neighbors as ourselves. Subsequently, no matter where we go, we are ambassadors for that Kingdom, reconciling people to God, who desires that all come to Him and find rest for their souls.

This message and its realization in the lives of Christians get us hated and killed the world over.

If you are not a Christian, ask yourself what sense that makes, that people would be burned alive or beheaded for such a message. Why does this trouble so many to the point of hatred and violence against Christians?

Does it makes sense to you? Think hard. Ask yourself the tough questions. Go there.

Because this hatred of Christians isn’t going to get better, only worse. If you are not a Christian, you’ll watch this happen. Maybe it will be enough to show you the truth of the Christian message amid the lies of the world.

My prayer is that it will.

Do American Christians Want to Be the Church?


Church gone fuzzyFor all the handwringing about half-hearted evangelism and declining church attendance…

For all the lamentations about lack of community…

For all the conflicting PR about organic, emerging, institutional, house, simple, and traditional churches…

For all the grousing about spiritual gifts, cessationism, charismania, and talents…

And for all the preoccupation with politics, Kardashians, Dancing with the Stars winners/losers, sports fanaticism, the “right” schools, the future, the Consitutution, police states, ISIS, endless End Times “prophecies,” and every last minuscule thing that has precious little to do with being a Child of God…

I am increasingly concerned that Christians in America have no desire to be the Church. We just don’t.

We talk like we do, but it’s mostly talk.

I confess that this is true of me as well. I am not exempt. I talk big, but I struggle to find ways to make the things I talk about work. I think this is true of most people in America. Something must be done; now if someone would just do it…

It may also be true that the systems we have in place that make American Christianity what it is only complicate being a genuine Christian attempting to live as the genuine Church.

But Americans have a way of making the things they value most work and work well—which is why I wonder if we truly value being the Church.

Do we wake up and immediately ask God to make us the Church? Is that such a burning concern for us that we give it the priority it deserves?

It’s not that we don’t love God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit. It’s that we’re not so sure about people. The vertical still has value. The horizontal, not so much.

Let’s get real, though: If the horizontal isn’t there, is the vertical? Or are we fooling ourselves?

Then there are the endless battles…

For all the talk of trying to preserve the Church in America by taking on the culture and standing up for what is right, have we really preserved anything? Or did “fighting the good fight of Faith” lead us into the wrong battlefields, allowing our flanks to be decimated? Do we now find ourselves in a position where our soldiers are walking away and going back to their homes, weary and looking for something, anything, to distract them from realities they can no longer face because their wingmen went home too?

How many people out there are asking if they can do this anymore? How many have already decided they can’t?

Does anyone care?

Maybe this post is too grim. Maybe it’s not grim enough.

As for me, I think some people still care. I just don’t know if they have enough momentum to steer anyone else their way. Maybe the final outcome was always the remnant, and this is what it looks like.

I admit that I don’t have any answers beyond what I’ve posted here already on Cerulean Sanctum.

It just seems to me that somewhere we went off the rails, and instead of working to rectify the situation, we wandered off, distracted. Maybe this is the “powerful delusion” the Bible speaks of. Maybe we Americans who profess to know the Lord are falling under its spell too.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s not as dire as I think it may be. God knows I want to be wrong on this issue.

Do we Americans really care about being the Church? If we still do, how do we prove it?

Maybe you have an answer. If so, please comment.

Three Faith Films–And What They Fail to Say about Faith


They’ve been calling 2014 the Year of the Faith Film. I know that in the evangelical community I tend to find myself thrust into, people were pumped about that. Perhaps Hollywood was waking up from its superhero love fest and rediscovering that the Good Book has its own caped crusaders (well, toga-ed, or whatever it is that they wore—you get the point) that can teach us about life.

So far, I’m not sure the Year of the Faith Film is delivering on its promise. And I wonder what that says about our understanding of what faith really is.

Three of those films have hit the cineplexes in recent weeks. I haven’t seen any of them. I’m not sure I would ever want to.

Noah has been called by its director “the least biblical biblical film ever made,” and at achieving this he seems to have succeeded, pulling from just about any ancient text outside the Bible that even hints at a flood narrative. He then offers us a man of “faith” whose righteousness appears to derive from despising anything that isn’t a fuzzy bunny, himself included. Rather than the LSD Methuselah slipped into Noah’s tea, Prozac may have been a better choice. Some have wondered if the director culled more from the works of J.R.R Tolkien and Timothy Leary than from the Jews.

God’s Not Dead is evangelicalism’s answer to Noah, pitting its faithful-to-a-fault, Christian-American, teen apologist against the evil college professor in a battle of hermeneutics, which everyone knows is the most gripping plotline any moviegoer could possibly hope for. And yes, there are other subplots, but they all add up to what amounts to an evangelical snuff film, where the most anyone can long for in life is to get one’s “fire insurance” and avoid hell. Should have titled this God’s Not Dead, But You Will Be.

Son of God purports to be about the life of Jesus. I heard a rumor that Justin Beiber plays Jesus. Or is it Zach Efron? Being a wizened curmudgeon, I get my teen heartthrobs mixed up. I also hear they cut out the devil because he looked too much like our current president. Also purportedly, the filmmakers saved time and cash by filming this movie alongside the making of their made-for-TV pseudo-epic The Bible. I think from what I’ve written, you get an idea of how unchallenging this film is. That I can’t recall anyone from my church claiming to have seen it may be the most damning statement I can make about it.

What these three films tells us about the state of faith in America 2014 is that no one, especially Hollywood, has one lick of an idea what it means to be faithful in the every day. God exists at the periphery of life, relegated to weirdos or to the moment of death or to some milquetoast interpretation of “faith” that has nothing to do with the guy who wakes up in the morning and hopes to connect to God amid the daily commute, a pile of unpaid bills, and the American Dream. Perhaps the superhero love fest does have more say to us (heck, even God Is Not Dead features the actors who played Hercules and Superman).

The reality of faith in God that the Bible holds out to each one of us is that it IS relevant to the mundane day-to-day. No sacred/secular divide exists, and Christianity is filled to the brim with truth that suffuses every part of life, which is what makes it worth living. God isn’t just there in the flood. He’s not just there when we die. He’s not a cleverly marketed and filmed made-for-TV-but-shown-in-the-theaters side project. God intends to be there in everything we do and to give those activities meaning.

Henry David Thoreau said that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. If these three “faith” movies were the only gauge to what faith in God is all about, I can understand that desperation.

Perhaps it’s not possible to encompass the richness of a life found in Christ and jam it into a two hours of screen time. Filmmakers will keep trying, though. And I suspect they will keep failing.

Perhaps we don’t know what a genuinely Christian life looks like in America 2014. Certainly, a lack of models is one reason. We’ve made strange alliances with worldliness and can no longer extricate that worldliness from truth. Sometimes, we even call evil good and good evil.

The God of the Bible offers abundant life. His word speaks to all parts of human existence. He is our God both when we are kneeling in church and when we’re sitting on the john. All of life, especially the middle we can’t seem to ascribe to Him, is filled with His Life.

How we make that true and real to most of us has yet to be filmed. Or in America 2014, lived.